‘Body in box’ claim in slave trial
A WOMAN accused of keeping a slave in her suburban home for eight years allegedly told the woman's family she would "send her body in a box", a court has been told.
The woman and her husband, who cannot be legally named, are both charged with intentionally possessing a slave and intentionally exercising the right of ownership over a slave between 2007 and 2015.
The Mount Waverley couple are fighting the charges at trial in the Supreme Court of Victoria.
Evidence from the alleged slave's son-in-law, who has since died, was read out in court on Thursday.
"She made threats to me that she will send her body in a box," he said the accused woman told him in a phone call.
His evidence was read in a form of a transcript from a prior court hearing.
In a statement aired in court, the man also said contact with his mother-in-law had dwindled during her time in Australia.
The son-in-law also said the couple had pressured him through others to withdraw the complaint against them. He said he urged the couple to take money so they could have her back, and that he didn't ask for money.
"I said, you take the money, we want her, only her back. That's all, you take the money," he said.
The couple only contacted him in 2015 when they said the alleged victim became ill and when he urged them to return her to India, the wife abused him using "obscene and vulgar" words, he said.
In an email, she allegedly told him and his wife: "Ask her to go f*** herself!!!" and "F*** you!".
The alleged victim had come to Australia twice to work for the couple and been allowed to return home before she was allegedly enslaved on her third trip in 2007.
The woman, now in her 60s, met the couple in Tamil Nadu and initially made an "arrangement" through her son-in-law for her to do domestic duties and care for their children, the court was told.
Her situation was uncovered after an ambulance was called in 2015 when the wife found her shivering in a pool of urine in the bathroom, the prosecutor said previously.
"She was found in her own urine, in a puddle on the bathroom floor and shivering," prosecutor Richard Maidment told jurors at the trial opening.
She was rushed to Box Hill hospital where paramedics found the woman weighed just 40kg, had sepsis and untreated diabetes.
It was also revealed at an earlier hearing she had no teeth and ate "mash".
Initially, the alleged slave didn't tell police how long she'd been in Australia or the "mistreatment" she'd endured because she feared she would not be able to return home, the court had been told.
Prosecutors allege the couple had such a level of control over the woman's rights and freedoms that it amounted to slavery.
The court heard they allegedly controlled her right to communicate with others, freedom of movement and her rights to health care and payment for work.
But lawyers for the pair have denied these allegations.
Lawyer Gideon Boas, who represents the wife, said the alleged victim was an "integrated member of the family" and they referred to her using the Tamil word for grandmother.
He said the word "slavery" was key to the case and the woman's claims about what happened to her were "colourful".
"Not underpayment, not mistreatment, not meanness, not lying," Dr Boas said previously.
The lawyer for the husband, John Kelly, told jurors they could "never be satisfied" he was guilty based on the evidence that would come out.
The trial continues in front of Justice John Champion on Friday.
Originally published as 'Body in box' claim in slave trial